Saturday’s Yo-Yo Ma event shows cellists’ passion for art education |

Saturday’s Yo-Yo Ma event shows cellists’ passion for art education

Daily staff report
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/Michael O'Neill

VAIL, Colorado – On the one hand, the children of the Vail Valley will be part of uniquely individual experience Saturday when internationally-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma joins students from Celebrate the Beat, First Notes and the Bravo! Young Composers programs Saturday. The Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and the Vail Valley Foundation welcome Ma to Vail to celebrate the arts with the free Imagination Celebration event at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.

On the other hand, the valley’s children will join the global community that Ma has been able to touch and inspire via arts education initiatives throughout the world, primarily through his Silk Road Connect program.

“Imagination Celebration is a natural extension of Yo-Yo’s profound belief that the arts inspire learning and should be an important part of every child’s education,” explained Damian Woetzel, director of the Vail International Dance Festival, who has collaborated with Ma on the Silk Road Connect program in the New York City Public Schools. “When I asked him if he would join us for this, he was excited to see and experience the inspiring arts education programs we are lucky enough to have in Vail.”

Silk Road Connect is a multi-year, multidisciplinary educational initiative targeting middle school students in underserved communities. The program presents four integrated themes, designed to help students and teachers discover connections in and out of the classroom, creating opportunities to experience learning driven by passion rather than learning simply to meet requirements.

“Passion driven education liberates students and gives them the self-confidence to discover who they are as individuals and how they fit in the world,” Ma said. “An education that incorporates the four priorities of making the subject memorable, inspiring passion driven learning, developing a disciplined imagination and fostering empathy will result in citizens who are active participants in shaping a future of which we can all be proud.”

Connecting kids with the arts

The Silk Road Connect themes include music, art and performance. Throughout the program, students engage with professional musicians, artists and performers who act as models of excellence, addressing multiple learning strengths as students work toward a culminating performance with Ma and members of the Silk Road Ensemble.

Woetzel served as the creative director for the 2010 culminating event performance, which took place earlier this month in New York City at the Museum of Natural History, and involved over 400 6th grade students who had participated in the Silk Road Connect program over the course of the school year.

Appointed a CultureConnect Ambassador by the United States Department of State in 2002, Yo-Yo Ma has met with, trained and mentored thousands of students worldwide including Lithuania, Korea, Lebanon, Azerbaijan and China, while also performing with and conducting master classes for members of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. In 2006, Secretary General Kofi Annan named him a U.N. Messenger of Peace and in 2007 Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon extended his appointment.

The free Imagination Celebration, scheduled from 9 to 11:30 a.m., will feature individual performances by third through fifth graders of Celebrate the Beat, the second grade First Notes orchestra and Bravo! Young Composers Ben West and Jeremiah Johnston. Ma and Bravo’s Artistic Director and flutist Eugenia Zukerman and percussionist Mark Trevino are slated to accompany West and Johnston on their original composition titled “Coyoyote.”

Ma will also accompany the First Notes second grade string and horn musicians for a lively rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and team up with incoming high school sophomore pianist Katherine Bellino for Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Swan.” The program concludes with Ma performing Bach as accompaniment to a dance finale featuring Celebrate the Beat student dancers.

For additional information on the event, contact the Vail Valley Foundation at 970-949-1999 or the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival at 970-827-5700.

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